Review From The House
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New York, New York 2009 – Seven Days of Theatre, Food and Dance: PART II.
New York, New York 2009 – Seven Days of Theatre, Food and Dance: PART II.
Tuesday September 8th
Back in Manhattan after an awesome dance-filled Labour Day Getaway Cruise, feeling great except for my tired feet. I am ready for another 5 days of dance, theatre and fine food. First thing on the agenda will be to pick up a pair of practice shoes for the next couple of lessons. Somehow on board ship my feet must have grown from a dainty size 4½ to something huge. By the end of the voyage I felt like one of Cinderella's sisters, trying to squeeze my foot into a shoe that was suddenly far too small. Oh well, no prince for me I guess.
I plan to spend the rest of the day catching up on writing, laundry and planning my feasts for mind and body for my remaining days in the city.
Wednesday, September 9th - No Gill, you're not in a Bruce Willis movie !
I guess it was bad karma for being amused at the lady in the elevator who was scared of heights but my day started out with a bang - literally. I have only two phobias - I shudder at fluttering things like butterflies and moths - and I have a mild degree of claustrophobia. While my ultimate claustrophobic nightmare would be to be in a submarine, being trapped in an elevator would come pretty close. And guess what happened.
With my day planned out to the minute - subway to Times Square, pick up theatre tickets, visit Worldtone dance shop, have lunch, go to dance lesson, have supper, see play - I was feeling quite the jaunty travel-writer as I waited for the elevator on the 11th floor of my building. After all I had sort of mastered the routes I needed on the New York subway, only turned in the wrong direction about 5 times, and was comfortable finding my way around the various areas of Manhattan where I needed to go. After all in theory with an intelligently numbered grid system even a directionally challenged person should hardly stray too far wrong. But back to the elevator.
So the elevator comes, I enter and press the button for the Lobby. Doors close, the elevators starts to move - and I hear a loud bang. The elevator drops precipitously and then stops. My stomach continues downward. Oh Oh. I look at the indicator - it still says 11 and it is not moving. I press the Door Open button - no response. Something was definitely wrong but an intrepid world traveller does not panic, even a claustrophobic world traveller.
So after getting no response from up, down or door open buttons, I figured it was time to press the help button. The response was immediate. A man with a warm, rather soothing voice - I guess they must pick them for that - politely asked "can I help you?"
'"Yes" I say, "trying to keep my voice as steady as his is, "this lift is stuck- and I can't open the doors to get out."
"Where are you ma'am," he says. I give him the address. "And what building is this? Is it the YMCA or the Avalon?"
Shouldn't he know this, I think, I mean he is responding to the help function. I have no idea whether this building is called The Avalon - I ony know it by the street address - but since I know it is not the Y, I tell him that it must be the Avalon.
"Don't worry " he says, "some one will be along in a little while to help you." Hmmm... That did not sound to me like they were in a real hurry! I had no clue what was happening outside. The man did not sound as if the entire power system had failed or NYC was under attack and Bruce Willia or Kiefer Sutherland had to to save the day - but still, I wanted out of there fast. I decided to up the ante.
"I hate to bother you," says I with a tremor in my voice - and it is my daughter that is the actor, not me - "but I am quite claustrophobic and being trapped in here is very scary."
He suggests that I sit down in one of the corners of the elevator. "It will make the space seem bigger" he says in that mellow voice. ".And dont worry, I will stay on the phone with you till help arrives."
I looked at the floor- rather dirty - there was no way I was going to sit down. I was just going to have to become unclaustrophobic, fast. I focused on beathing slowly and letting random thoughts trickle through my brain.
It was very quiet. No sounds from outside. Maybe Bruce Willis will come crashing through the ceiling to get the bad guys. Oh right, there are no bad guys in the elevator - just me . I think I may have watched too many Die Hard movies - or watched too many episodes of 24 while working out on the elliptical equipment.
After a seemingly interminable time, I hear voices outside the elevator and sounds of the doors being forced open. Eventually they pry the doors apart. There are three men staring up at me. The elevator had stuck halfway between floors 10 and 11 and there was about a 4 foot jump for me to get down onto the 10th floor. I hoped my back could stand the jarring but basically as I got ready to jump they grabbed both my hands and swung me down to the floor for a gentle landing.
I thanked them and then realized that I needed to get into another elevator to get to the lobby. The men were very reassuring - "Ma'am this is an unusual situation. The other elevators are fine but we will send one of our men down with you." Later I found out that there had been ongoing problems with the elevators - this was actually not an unusual situation at all!
But anyway, soon I was out in the fresh air, heading to the subway to take F train uptown to the 42nd street and Bryant Park station. From there it would be a couple of blocks west to Broadway and the theatre box offices I planned to visit.
Naturally, as I emerged like a mole from the underground, casting around for an indicator as to what direction was west and what was east, with my unerringly accurate sense of direction I set off walking briskly in the wrong direction. When I found myself at Park avenue instead of 7th, I realized my mistake. It was clearly time to get some aid for my navigation system. Of course if I upgrade my phone to an I-phone or such, I would have GPS access, but as I had several months to go on my contract with Telus, I still have my old cell phone that basically does only what a phone is supposed to do ; phone calls, and text messages.
Time for plan B. I needed to find a store that sells a compass. Retracing my steps and making a few inquiries, I found myself in a store consisting of a narrow corridor, crowded with things that looked like second hand bush jackets swinging from rails and impeding my progess down the aisle. Finally I pushed my way in far enough to find someone who unlocked a wall cabinet and handed me a packet containing a compass and a few minutes later, I walked out of the store, compass in hand, ready to
srart the search for tickets.
As I stood on the pavement, pointing the compass in what I thought was the direction of north, I realized that the east - west streets dont exactly run east - west but are slanted. Still I could now tell which way Broadway was and off I marched to see what tickets I could get for a show for the evening.
I headed first for 45th street where there were three theatres in a row with the top shows on my list. I managed to get a good seat for God of Carnage for the Thursday night show, and for A Steady Rain for a 2 pm Saturday matinee. That left tonight. I had noticed when I checked on line that several of the musicals I was interested in were dark - one of the box office guys told me that many productions take a few more days off after the Labour Day weekend. But at the Playwrights Horizon on 42nd another new play, The Retributionists, was advertised. The subject matter sounded really interesting so I decided to take a walk down to the theatre, which is between 9 and 10th avenues on 42nd near the Port authority terminal.
At first I could not see the theatre so I popped into the Theater Row box office, where I remember seeing Ascension the last time I visited New York in November 2006. The man in the box office at Theatre Row told me that Playwrights Horizon theatre was a couple of doors further west. Knowing that the Theater Row on 42nd Street consists of 6 different theaters I asked if anything was playing there at the moment.
He pointed to a postcard for Emily, also a new play by an emerging playwright. I had tentatively arranged to meet a friend for a show on Sunday, so managed to call him on his cell and check whether he was interested in a new play about Emily Dickinson. Himself a writer and poet, he thought that would be fine so I picked up two tickets for the Sunday matinee. Then I went next door to see if I could get a ticket for The Retributionists for tonight. Success!
So as Michael and I were going to see Burn the Floor, me for the second time (!), all my theatre time slots were now full. And there were at least 5 shows I still wanted to see. I should have planned to stay two weeks!
So armed with my tickets, my next objective was to get dance shoes for my newly enlarged feet. I usually buy my dance shoes at Avalon in Vancouver, but my regular shoes were feeling very tight after 4 nights of dance and I had 6 hours of lessons coming up. I needed a larger pair of shoes if my toes were to survive this trip.
I decided to visit the WorldTone dance shop that my fellow dancers on the cruise had highly recommended. I hopped on a 6 train and headed down to 23rd Street. This time, armed with my compass, when I emerged from the subway I knew which direction to turn, and soon I was climbing the stairs to the second floor where the store was located.
Lani, the owner was very helpful, as we discussed the difference between flare heels, contour heels and the sizes of different brands. I found a pair of lower heeled practice shoes which was great as I needed to replace my worn out pair anyway and I also got a larger size of ballroom shoe with a strap.
Then I hopped back on the 6 train to 42nd street and decided to talk a slow walk across the city to the dance studio which is between 2nd and 1st Avenues on E. 43rd Street.
By this time it was just before 2pm when I walked past an enticing-looking restaurant, called Aureole, on 42nd street. I was quite hungry and my dance class was not until 3:45 so I decided on the spur of the moment to see if I could get a light lunch. The original Aureole is the restaurant that Master Chef Charlie Palmer opened in 1988 off Madison Avenue. As I found out the restaurant had moved only 10 weeks previously from its original site to this new location. The design was interesting. The light fixture shown in the picture was quite striking.
I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, and the conversation I had with Sarina, my friendly server, who brought me the dinner menu to see and told me all about a parallel tasting menu that is offered. I wish I had time to come back for dinner there. As a bonus, it turned out they were offering a fifteen percent discount on the food, until the formal opening on September 15th. So I enjoyed a pleasant meal at a really reasonable price. Nice.
I continued on my leisurely walk to the dance studio, arriving a few minutes early. I changed into my practice shoes and while I waited for my lesson, told Oleskandra, Michael's teacher, all about the dance cruise, and especially how Mike had enjoyed it.
For the next couple of lessons with Yuriy I thought I should go back to the international style waltz and slow foxtrot. We spent most of the first half of the lesson on waltz and a little bit of tango. I really have to get over my tango tension! For some reason it is the one dance that I can't relate to, no matter what style of tango I try.
For the second part of the lesson we spent a long time on the forward and backward walk in rumba. It really is interesting when you break it down, how different instructors use different ways to convey the same messages. When I think back to Edwin's lessons on my South African visit, Bernice and Aegide - my regular instructors, and other folks I have had a few lessons with, Stephen in California, Brian, Piero and Greg on the cruises, Yuriy here and Cliff and Carlos back in Vancouver- if one picks up one little gem from each of them, hopefully it will eventually all add up to an improvement in my dancing. We will see what Bernice and Aegide have to say on my return to Vancouver this time.
After my lesson it was back across the city to Braai, the South African restaurant where I had made a dinner reservation. As a South African by birth, though now Canadian for more than thirty ears, I was quite looking forward to seeing what would constitute a South African menu in a New York restaurant.
The restaurant exterior was not particularly enticing with steps leading down to the restaurant just below street level. But the nice young host/server showed me to a table outside in the tiny courtyard. I was interested in the game meats on the menu, though ultimately a bit disappointed in the quality of the meal.
After dinner, walking from the restaurant it was a few blocks further south to 42nd street and then across to Playwrights Horizons to see The Retributionists. Knowing the size of the theatre (and the washrooms) at our own Playwrights Theatre Centre in vancouver, I was not prepared for the spacious feel of this complex and the comfortable, large auditorium with real seats! I was especially impressed with the large airy muti-cubical washrooms.
I know it is a bit nuts to post a picture of a washroom but as my fellow long-suffering female Vancouver theatre-goers can see, they were really bright, spacious and plentiful. Bet this New York theatre does not have long lineups of audience members, praying they can get to pee before intermission is over!
After The Retributionists I walked back along 42nd street to the Bryant Park station and took the V train down to 2nd Ave., and Houston. Amazingly I emerged from the subway just around the corner from Mike's building and was soon upstairs and booting up my computer.
Thursday Sept 10th
It seems that no matter how late I go to sleep. my internal alarm clock tells me to wake around 6 o'clock or earlier, so I brewed some fresh coffee and enjoyed yogurt, nuts and fruit for breakfast, while I checked email and got on with some writing. Other than to shop -and I decided I needed to be more fiscally responsible if I wanted to eat out so much - I had no reason to go uuptown till my dance lesson at 3pm so I spent most of the morning, trying to catch up on my writing.
I wanted to get production photos to post with my theatre reviews and the box office folks at the theatres where Burn The Floor, The Retributionists and God of Carnage were playing had given me contact information for the publicists. So in between writing I decided to make some calls. I spoke first to Michael, publicist for The Retributionist, and then to Jane, publicist for Burn The Floor. Both were great - friendly and helpful -and immediately emailed me photos with all the appropriate information I needed for the credits. Encouraged,I got on he phone to the publicist for God of Carnage which I was to see later this eveing. Again the response was great and a selection of photos arrived by email.
The box office man at Theatre Row where I was to see Emily had suggested that I could speak to someone from the theatre company at the performance on Sunday, so that left only A Steady Rain, the play featuring Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman. Unlike the others, the box office man at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre was most unhelpful. He said they had no information on the publicists to contact and had no suggestions for anyone else I could talk to. I had checked the show on line and came up with the company that was handling the publicity, a large public relations firm. I managed to find the address of their new location but not even through reverse directory could I come up with a phone number or find an email addresses for the company. I thought I was wasting too much precious time and gave up my search. Hence the theater marquee photo on my review. But it seems bizarre to me that a publicity firm would not have eradily available contact information, don't you think?
By 1:45, having judiciously avoided getting into the suspect elevtor, I was on my way back uptown for another dance lesson. We did slow foxtrot and then worked a bit on sharpening up my jive and cha chacha.
I had a dinner reservation at Oceana for 6 pm. My dance class went on a bit longer than I had expected and by the time I had changed and packed away my dance shoes it was a quarter-to the hour. I had planned to walk and I looked at my watch and thought "I am going to be really late." So I speed walked across the city zig-zagging north and west depending on the traffic lights. The address was 1221 Avenue of the America's so not unreasonably I expected the entrance to be on that street. But after walking up and down ,I remembered that it had also aid the restaurant was in Rockefeller Center at 49th Street. So I turned west on 49th and arrived breathless at Oceana restaurant at a few minutes past the hour.
Only as I realized later when I arrived equally breathless at the theatre, it was an hour earlier than I had booked for. Somehow, when my class finished at 4:45 my head told me 5:45. Hmmm... Maybe once I got the east-west direction stuff sorted out, thanks to the compass, my brain decided the next way to mess me up would be by screwing up my sense of time.
Anyway the upshot of all this was that after a really excellent meal at Oceana, still under the impression that I was running an hour later than I really was, and another fast walk across the westide to the theatre, I arrived there desperate for a washroom, only to realize that the doors would not be opening in five minutes, but an hour and five minutes.
But thank heavens for the Marriott Marquis where I could have a drink in the lobby lounge on the 8th floor to while away the hour, and where there were a host of well tended washrooms to chose from on the way out.
The house was packed for God of Carnage, a play by French playwright, Yasmin Reza, author of Art and An Unexpected Man, both plays I had previously enjoyed. The piece is a four hander starring some heavy hitters, so to speak; Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden. It reminded me a bit of Albee's Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf but the humour was less bitter and there was not the same sense of quiet desperation in this play.
Anyway I thought the play was good and the performances excellent. I made my way to the subway and then downtown feeling really happy with my New York experiences so far.